We children are global citizens and world politicians....... Or: thinking and acting as global citizens.
Every tree that we plant with our own hands and every euro that we turn into a tree in a southern country is a real and important contribution towards combating the climate crisis.This is why we are working hard to ensure that trees stop being cleared, and start being planted instead.
But we are not naïve !
Of course we don’t believe that we can save the entire world just by planting trees. If we want to have a more positive future ahead of us, we will need to do a lot more.
The last time we Climate Justice Ambassadors got together for a meeting, one of the kids told us about an interesting science report he had seen. In the report it was explained that if you let a monkey choose between having one banana now, or six bananas later, the monkey will always choose to have one banana straight away.
For us children, the future means another 70, 80, or even 90 years. But for many adults the future may stretch only as far as 20 or 30 years. We kids have noticed some striking similarities between the story about the monkeys, and the behaviour of many adults. Basically, if we humans only think and act for the short-term (like the monkeys), then everybody would be making the choice to live more comfortably today, at the expense of future generations. If adults continue to act even a little bit like the monkeys do, then our future will be looking pretty bleak.
Even though we children generally hate having to follow rules, nobody would disagree that we need them. Without rules we would surely never do our homework and would probably spend most of our time playing video games. Adults are arguably just bigger kids. Considering this, as Ambassadors for Climate Justice, we are convinced that we need global laws and regulations (or rules) to help us all to do the right thing for the future.
In our book “Tree by Tree” there is a chapter entitled “What Everyone Can Do”. Here you can learn how to make a positive difference with small actions. For example, driving your car less, flying less, always cooking with a lid and lower heat, replacing traditional light bulbs with energy efficient ones, eating less meat, changing electricity providers, etc… These are all voluntary measures that everyone can easily take. But how many people would have actually started doing these things? Five, six, seven per cent? For sure more than 90 per cent of people haven’t even started to make a change yet. And sadly many people probably still live under the motto: “Whatever I do now isn’t going to change anything.”
Here we can look at the example of the car. Back when most of us kids were born, German car manufacturers made a promise to stop producing cars that would emit more than 120 grams of CO2 per kilometre. Today however it is clear that they broke this promise as there are more fuel-guzzling SUVs crowding our streets than ever before. At the last UNEP Children and Youth Conference we talked with many of the other kids and found out that in Germany the tax on an SUV is much lower than it is for example in France, Britain or Norway. In Germany many off-road vehicles are taxed as if they were business cars. This means that those who drive bigger cars, receive even bigger benefits from the state. We only need to take a look at our streets to see the results of these rules – or rather the result of the absence of rules. Here in Germany, a significant number of people drive off-road vehicles and in other countries, that have smarter taxes, the number is much smaller.
We can also look at the example of air traffic. Just like cars, the regulation of air traffic fails to take CO2 emissions into account. The aviation fuel for international flights is tax-free around the world. In 2005 the finance ministers from the EU were going to introduce a Europe-wide tax on aviation fuel, but the tourism industry was against it. Great – so now everyone can fly around the world at cheap prices. Never mind that this will undoubtedly prove expensive for us children in the future. It is not only people who are flying all over the world – people also take advantage of the possibility to transport unnecessary goods around the globe because it is so cheap. Much too cheap! Nobody desperately needs to be able to eat strawberries in winter!
Now coming to the subject of food, the same principle is true for meat consumption. In the past our grandparents would only eat meat once or twice a week. Now meat is so cheap that many people, especially those in well-off countries, eat it several times a day. If we were to institute a global rule, that the price of every product should reflect the amount of CO2 that was emitted during the production process, then meat would be far more expensive and people would go back to eating less of it (and living healthier lives).
As Climate Justice Ambassadors we agree that we must work together to plant as many trees around the world as possible in order to help keep the climate stable. However we also know that we need to focus our energy on campaigning so that effective laws and regulations will be instituted around the globe. This will ensure that everyone will finally realize just who critical the climate crisis is, and they will be forced to join the rest of us and take positive action for the future.
We must learn from recent history!
As Climate Justice Ambassadors we always keep up with what is happening in the world – it’s not just adults who read newspapers or follow the news. Because of this we kids have noticed that our government would much rather give money to banks and car companies than to normal individuals who undoubtedly have a more urgent need for it. It has been a well-known fact for years that 30,000 people starve to death around the world every day. A large proportion of these 30,000 starving people are children. These people are starving unnecessarily in a rich world.
At the G8 Summit in Great Britain in 2005, the leaders of the eight richest countries on earth came together and solemnly promised to double the amount of aid money given to Africa by 2010. That would mean a total of $30 billion US dollars. However the amount of aid given to Africa today, remains $20 billion short of this mark. Like so often happens, the government leaders did not keep their promise. It is interesting (or rather disappointing) to note that $20 billion is also approximately the same amount of money that Wall Street bankers paid themselves in bonuses at the end of 2009. 2009 also happened to be the year following the financial crisis, when the governments had bailed these bankers out using tax payer money.
We children ask ourselves, why don’t adults do anything against these injustices – they read the newspapers too, right?! Instead of providing help and aid to the people in poor countries, we are leaving them to suffer the worst of global warming’s consequences, which we in the rich countries essentially created.
We children are not climate researchers. We don’t really understand the global financial system or the global economy. We children also don’t know if it will be the climate scientists who will be proven right or the climate sceptics.
Nobody knows for sure if the world’s sea levels will rise by 0.2 or 2.0 meters by the end of the century. But there are three things that we children know for sure:
- many of us will live through till the end of this century.
- with every ton of carbon that we take out of the ground in the form of petroleum, coal, and crude oil and then release into the atmosphere as CO2, we are making the greenhouse effect even stronger.
- we already have the technology we need so that we can leave petroleum, coal, and crude oil in the ground (Uranium too, of course, because we children don’t want nuclear waste either).
At present we burn as much mineral oil, natural gas and coal every day as the sun is able to absorb and store the negative effects of, in one million days. And we have already been releasing harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for decades. It is no wonder that the effects of global warming continue to intensify. More and more often we are seeing stories about extreme weather conditions around the world – flooding in some regions, droughts in others. It is often the people in the poor parts of the world, who live closest to nature, who are suffering the most from the consequences of the climate crisis. This is despite the sad fact that they have contributed the least to its cause.
Why don’t we assume that the climate scientists are right (or that it is perhaps even worse than they have realized) and change our behaviour accordingly? If we take action and in 40 years from now we learn that global warming wasn’t as bad as predicted, then we can be happy and secure in the knowledge that we did something positive for our planet. If we don’t take any action, in 40 years we may just be suffering from some catastrophic consequences, which could have been avoided if we had listened to the scientists.
What gives us courage?
History has shown us that countless individuals, groups, communities and even whole nations have had to fight for their rights. Women like Wangari Maathai had to fight a hard battle for their rights and their future in Africa. Martin Luther King fought for his rights and the rights of his people in the USA and Nelson Mandela is also a classic example in South Africa. What about us kids? Slowly it is clear that we have kids have no other choice but to fight for our own rights and future too.
In 2007 we were just a handful of kids. Today in 2011, there are thousands of us and although some might still not notice us, in a few years when our numbers have grown even more, they won’t be able to ignore us any longer …
During the UNEP Children and Youth Conference in South Korea in August 2009, 800 children from almost 100 countries around the world adopted a joint statement – for the Climate Summit in Copenhagen. Although this didn’t end up stopping the summit from being a failure, it is noteworthy that we kids successfully formulated a joint statement.
The German Advisory Council on Global Change has developed an innovative approach to tackling the problem of climate change. A key component is an agreement between the community of states regarding a cap, in the form of a global budget, for the total amount of carbon dioxide that may be emitted from fossil-fuel sources until the year 2050, in order to avoid dangerous climate change.The global CO2 budget is subdivided into national CO2 budgets among all countries on an equal per-capita basis. Read here the full approach (external link).